Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h), Reading (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (h), Chelsea (a), Wigan (h), Swansea (a), Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a), QPR (a), Sunderland (h), Manchester United (a), Norwich (h), Arsenal (a)
As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
Liverpool held Manchester City to its lowest pass accuracy of the season yesterday, 77.8%. The only match where City attempted and completed fewer passes was at Newcastle in mid-December, where they won 3-1. The only matches where City had less possession was a 1-1 home draw against Arsenal in September and a 2-0 win against Fulham two weeks ago. Through the first 24 matches, City had averaged 18 shots, 471 completed passes, 548 attempted passes, 86% pass accuracy and 59.3% possession. Liverpool made Manchester City register totals far below its average in all those categories. And still only drew.
In the reverse fixture, City completed 407 of 484 passes. Liverpool completed 372 of 462. City had 51.3% possession, and took 11 shots to Liverpool's 17. Liverpool bettered all of those totals yesterday, despite playing away from Anfield. And still only drew. Just like in the reverse fixture.
Like Arsenal on Wednesday, City pressed well, with 12 of 20 interceptions and four of 16 tackles in Liverpool's half, while Reina came nowhere near completing 20 passes. But that pressure didn't end up hurting Liverpool that much. It forced few mistakes, and didn't stop Liverpool from having the majority of possession or taking multiple shots. In fact, it made Liverpool play slightly more directly, which – no matter Rodgers' death-by-football possession preferences – Liverpool are often better at doing.
Combined, Manchester City's strikers – who cost approximately £65m in transfer fees – took two shots and created one chance. Liverpool's two strikers – who cost a combined £34.7m – took 11 shots, equal to Manchester City's overall total, and created four chances. Of course, Agüero and Dzeko's two shots both found the back of the net. Suarez and Sturridge scored one goal, and put two other shots on target, four off-target, and had four blocked.
Despite each's modest shooting accuracy, the Sturridge/Suarez partnership was again impressive. Each took turns dropping deep, going long, and running the channels; both worked across the length and width of Manchester City's half. Sturridge's hold-up play was especially effective – completing 88% of his passes, keeping possession until other Liverpool players could join the attack, and winning all three of his attempted dribbles. Dzeko won many, many more aerial duels, but Sturridge was better as the furthest forward striker in almost every other regard.
Liverpool's 22 shots were the most for an away side at the Etihad since Arsenal took 23 in September 2009, a match Arsenal won 4-2. 136 league matches ago. City's 11 shots were nearly a low for a season, also taking 11 against Liverpool in the reverse fixture and when hosting Swansea, 10 in a 1-1 draw at Everton, and nine in 0-0 draw at Chelsea.
Without Kompany and Yaya Toure, arguably City's most influential players, Mancini's side was happier to sit deeper, packing men between Liverpool's attack and Hart's goal, which they were better at after switching to 3-5-2 early in the second half. 12 of Liverpool's 22 shots came from outside the box. And Liverpool didn't help themselves with their shooting accuracy. Just four of Liverpool's shots found the target: the two goals, Suarez's fairly tame volley in the 45th minute, and Sturridge's toe-poke blast in the 90th minute. 10 were off-target, eight were blocked.
And that – along with the unmentionable terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Reina error for Agüero's equalizer – is why Liverpool only drew.